con

Short for convention.

EVE Fanfest 2017: EVE Online plans amazing new PvE gameplay

Today’s EVE Online is a far cry from the empty but hopeful sandbox released back in 2003, having constantly re-invented itself for over 14 years and put together some incredibly ambitious visions for the future. Executive Producer Andie “CCP Seagull” Nordgren shared one of these visions in her Fanfest keynote speech four years ago, laying out the long-term goal of having players build their own stargates, explore deep space and colonise previously undiscovered star systems. This trajectory has brought us Citadels, Engineering Complexes, and soon Upwell Refineries, but it isn’t the only plan for evolving EVE and it may not even be the most impressive one.

Last year we heard from CCP Burger and CCP Affinity on some amazing advances that had been made in NPC AI for the powerful roaming Drifter ships, and broad plans to integrate parts of that more widely into the game, possibly even creating something CCP Burger called “PvPvE.” We got our first taste of the end result after EVE Vegas 2016 when NPC mining operations began appearing in certain star systems and mimicking the activity of real player mining ops — They had mining barges hoovering up rocks in the belts, haulers picking up the ore, and even combat ships using PvP setups and strategies modelled on real players that would chase attackers around the star system. This first iteration of the feature was impressive, but at EVE Fanfest 2017 we discovered that an even more incredible future awaits EVE players.

Read on for a breakdown of the next stage in EVE‘s PvE gameplay and an interview with CCP Seagull on how this feature will be rolled out over high-security space and beyond.

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EVE Fanfest 2017: Hands-on with competitive VR sports game Sparc

At the end of February, CCP Games announced a new game that has nothing to do with EVE Online or even the EVE IP. Named Sparc, the new VR game is being pitched as a virtual sport environment with competitive online gameplay and an online social space. It has the aesthetic of the Tron-style cyberspace world that movies promised us throughout the 80s, and uses motion controls to deliver full-body VR gameplay. Even the social space will have a bit of an 80s arcade vibe, with players able to gather around and watch others compete and challenge the reigning champion to a match.

Anyone who’s been to EVE Fanfest in recent years will recognise Sparc immediately. The game made its public debut as Disc Arena in Fanfest 2015’s VR Labs demo section alongside three other VR experiments, and made a re-appearance the following year with motion controls as Project Arena. Just as Project Nemesis became the release title Gunjack, this game has now graduated into a full production title with its own development team and budget. Sparc is due for release at some point in 2017 on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, and we managed to get some hands-on time with an early version at this year’s Fanfest.

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EVE Fanfest 2017: EVE Online joins the hunt for exoplanets through Project Discovery

The scientific community has been buzzing lately with the incredible news that a star system less than 40 lightyears away named TRAPPIST-1 was found to contain seven rocky planets of similar size to Earth. Three of the planets are in the star’s habitable zone, the narrow orbital band in which water should be found in a liquid state and so life may be possible. TRAPPIST-1 has fired the imaginations of the general public, who have been getting involved directly in the search for new exoplanets via crowdsourcing initiatives such as the Exoplanet Explorers project on Zooniverse.

At EVE Fanfest 2017, it was announced that that players of MMO EVE Online will soon be joining the great exoplanet hunt too through an interesting new mini-game that challenges players to find elusive planetary transits in data from telescopes around the world. Developed in collaboration with citizen science company MMOS, the University of Reykjavik, and the University of Geneva, the task will come to EVE as a Project Discovery mini-game with a variety of in-game rewards. It’s pretty exciting to think that players waging war over planets around other stars in a virtual universe will soon be finding them in the real world.

Read on to find out how exactly we find planets around other stars, and how this is going to be integrated with EVE Online.

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EVE Fanfest 2017: EVE Valkyrie adds atmospheric flight in Groundrush, coming April 11th

Virtual reality dogfighter EVE: Valkyrie has taken centre stage in the emerging VR landscape, growing from a tech demo developed by some devs at CCP Games in their spare time to become a bundled launch title on the Oculus Rift and launch on several other VR platforms. The game has received several major updates since its launch just over a year ago, adding a new Carrier Assault game mode, weekend Wormhole events, a competitive league system, and more.

Today at EVE Fanfest 2017 and as just announced by the official PlayStation blog, CCP Games revealed the next step for Valkyrie — and it’s a pretty big one! The Groundrush update will add a radically different way of playing the game with the first ever ground-based map, “Solitude,” which will see you dogfighting within the atmosphere of a planet and dodging through pirate structures. The update also expands co-op play to the Control and Carrier Assault game modes, adds some new Wormhole events, and adds official support for the Steam Controller. The Groundrush update officially launches on April 11th, and you can check out the trailer below.

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PAX East 2017: The Elder Scrolls Online’s battlegrounds are exactly that

My absolute first appointment at PAX East 2017 was to stop by The Elder Scrolls Online display to check out the new battlegrounds coming up with the game’s Morrowind expansion. This should not have been difficult to do, but it was made quite difficult by unnecessarily awful traffic. Seriously, it was bumper-to-bumper through long stretches of the Mass Pike, despite the fact that there was barely any snow falling and no road accumulation. I was a little bit late, in fact.

Why am I telling you this story? Because the reality is that it’s the most interesting story that I have beyond the title line.

I don’t mean to imply that I was disappointed by The Elder Scrolls Online’s battleground gameplay because I wasn’t. It was solid! I would go so far as to say it was exactly what your mind pictures when you put the game’s title and “battleground” into the same sentence. The problem with describing it is just… well, again, it’s exactly what your mind pictures. It is a battleground, and it is in The Elder Scrolls Online. That’s it.

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The Daily Grind: What were you disappointed to not hear about from PAX East?

As the man on the ground at PAX East this year (and every year), I bear the brunt of your displeasure if there was something I straight-up did not attend or cover. If you were really hoping to hear about Quake or Mass Effect: Andromeda or Whatever Other Non-MMO Games Were On The Floor I Wasn’t Keeping Close Track from me, all I can do is shrug and apologize for disappointing you. I had the appointments I had, and I did the best I could with what I could actually be told.

Of course, this is more about what you were disappointed about that specifically swirled around the soul. Were you disappointed by the lack of an on-hand demo for TERA’s console version? The non-presence of DC Universe Online? A dearth of new announcements for Conan Exiles or The Secret World? What were you disappointed to not hear about from PAX East? Were there specific games or studios that you feel didn’t offer enough if anything to convention-goers?

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PAX East 2017: Introducing Rend, a three-way survival sandbox from Frostkeep Studios

I don’t really like survival games, typically — I understand why a lot of people do like them, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t care for them myself, for a whole forest of reasons. To make a survival game that I want to play, you have to really come at the genre from a side angle, which can be hard to do while retaining the things that people like about the genre.

At this early juncture, I can’t say that Rend (official site) will do all of that. But I can say that the groundwork is in place for something that might be worth getting excited about.

I was incredibly fortunate to be granted one of the first meetings with Frostkeep Studios and a first look at Rend itself, in a conspiratorial PAX meeting on the second floor of a fish restaurant on the Boston piers. It felt a bit as if I were being shown something that should not be seen, some artifact of great power that had been hidden away from prying eyes. Perhaps that’s as it should be.

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PAX East 2017: Citadel Studios on Shards Online’s switch to Legends of Aria

Big changes for MMOs frequently involve giving up almost as much as you gain. Not so with Legends of Aria, the not-actually-new title from Citadel Studios. Legends of Aria is Shards Online, you see, but it’s also not Shards Online. It’s everything you liked about Shards Online, but it’s also placed into a larger context in which the ideas behind the game can have more space to develop and grow. If you liked the game before, you’ll like it now, but if you didn’t like the game before, you might think a bit more fondly of it once you see the changes.

The short version is that Legends of Aria has a robust “main” server set up. That means a large-scale map, plenty of things for players to go find, and a variety of different regions with different environmental effects. It is, in other words, a full-scale MMO which you can play as much as you’d like. But it’s also a full-scale MMO that allows you to look at what the developers have done and say that you don’t like it… and then make your own version of the game server.

We spoke to the folks from Citadel at this year’s PAX East. Read on!

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PAX East 2017: Hands-on with the surprisingly fun Kritika Online

It’s pretty much a rule of nature that at least one game is going to be far better and more fun to play than I expected on the PAX East show floor. This has been true every year, and while the past couple of years have involved my spending a bit less time on the show floor overall, I’ve still walked away with some surprises. This year, it was Kritika Online.

What I expected from Kritika Online was… well, nothing particularly impressive. I didn’t expect it to be bad, but that was because I didn’t expect much from it at all. It was a game that En Masse was bringing over that sounded, at a glance, like the sort of game which fades from memory shortly after you play it. What I actually got was a game that has a clean purpose and remarkably fun mechanics, like the pure product of an MMO marrying a Dynasty Warriors clone.

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PAX East 2017: Jumping and climbing through Chronicles of Elyria’s pre-alpha

I admit to my weakness: Despite years and years of games using it again and again, I still enjoy the simple gameplay benefits of jumping between ledges. I like parkour. Admittedly, I like it in a purely academic sense, as my actual vertical mobility is somewhere between “no” and “hell no,” but I like games that allow you to dash hither and yon, springing from wall to wall, running along things, all of that fun stuff.

The pre-alpha build of MMORPG sandbox Chronicles of Elyria on display at PAX East did not feature that. It featured parkour that was more on the level of God of War’s process of mantling ledges, jumping between them, and so forth. Still, that’s a welcome change from the fact that far too many MMOs don’t even grant you that degree of mobility. Even in games that encourage you to move about with jumping puzzles and the like, how many MMOs allow you to actually use your hands to grasp a ladder?

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PAX East 2017: Final Fantasy XIV’s Q&A panel

At the time of this writing, there’s just over a hundred days until Stormblood launches, expanding the world of Final Fantasy XIV for the second time. We’ll no doubt learn more about the expansion before that launch happens, but the second day of PAX East gave players a chance to ask about the game directly from the producer and director himself, Mr. Naoki Yoshida. He’s kind of a big deal.

Much as the team has done with previous PAX East events, Yoshida took both pre-written questions from fans on the show floor and live questions taken directly from the audience in attendance. While there were no huge revelations, there were plenty of tidbits for players to chew on as the game moves along through the remaining months until the launch of the second expansion. And, of course, there’s plenty of stuff to speculate about, but isn’t there always?

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PAX East 2017: Talking Conan Exiles on the show floor with Funcom

If you’re a fan of Funcom and the games it makes, Conan Exiles probably has you breathing a bit easier than you have in a while. It’s an indisputable success for the developers, who have been in a difficult financial situation for the past several years. Now they’ve got a pretty big hit on their hands, big enough to take out a sizable booth on the PAX East show floor to demonstrate the harsh survival of the game.

I had a chance to chat with some of the Funcom staff on site as well as an opportunity to play the game a bit myself. (Although that was mostly an exercise in getting gored by rhinos and eaten by alligators, so MJ is probably the better source of information on the game mechanics.) They revealed to me just how big of a success the game has actually been for Funcom, hitting its twelve-month sales goal in 30 days. That’s significant however you slice it, especially when you’re discussing a buy-to-play game rather than a subscription setup.

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PAX East 2017: En Masse tells us all about TERA’s console port

Putting TERA on consoles seems like it’s the most obvious combination of games and platforms ever conceived. Even more than Super Mario Bros. and the NES controller, or Star Wars and awkward dance sequences. I was happy to get a chance to talk a bit about the recent announcement of the console port with En Masse at this year’s PAX East, and the obvious question that sprang to mind wasn’t about why it is getting a port but why it is happening now instead of earlier.

In a word? Timing. When TERA originally launched, it was the middle of the life cycle for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and neither console was really a perfect match, according to the studio. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, on the other hand, are both more powerful systems and systems designed from the ground up to be suited to online connectivity and interaction. The result was that it was the right opportunity for the team to make the port happen, with all of the stars aligning perfectly.

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